The Frogmarch

"I've got to pull up my stakes and roll, man." --Jean-Jacques Libris de Kerouac

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

In Which I Bring Beer Butt Chicken to the French

I've mentioned before that Le Professeur got a new grill and gave me his old one. In the processes that surrounded that, we got to talking about grilling and recipes, and I mentioned that I sometimes made Beer-Butt Chicken, an enjoyably redneck recipe that involves a beer can jammed rather amusingly up a chicken's butt [photo]. The idea is that the beer steams up the inside of the chicken cavity so that the meat stays nice and juicy while the skin gets crispy (my sooper-sekrit recipe is something like this one).

Le Professeur was fascinated, pressing me for details.
"I should make it for you sometime," I said offhandedly, in the way one says We should meet up for dinner sometime or we should all go out for drinks sometime; which is to say that everyone understands that the mentioned dinner or drinks will never actually happen.
"Great!" He brightened. "How's next Monday evening around eight?"

Well, I was sort of stuck so I agreed. A couple of days later he asked how many chickens I would need.
How many chickens?
"Well, a few other people will be coming by."
Ummm... how many people?
"Just 12 or 13."

Great. Now I'm cooking for a whole dinner party of French people. Now, you've probably heard that the French take food and cooking very very seriously, like a matter of life or death. I can assure you, however, that they take it much more seriously than that.

So the pressure was pretty high. But I think it came off well, all in all. Le Professeur provided some fine whole chickens from Bresse, as well as the requisite cans of Kronenbourg [photo, the next batch waiting their turn], making it probably the first occasion that Kronenbourg has ever been used to make Beer Butt chicken. Other guests brought salads and saucissons [photo] and wine to round out the meal, which took a good 3 or 4 hours all in all. But I acquitted myself well, I think, explaining the significance of the pregame tailgate, the Weber Bar-B-Kettle, the Labor Day cookout, the NASCAR infield, and even (briefly) the relative strengths and weaknesses of the Atlantic Coast Conference.

I'm sure Le Professeur's friends are envious of Le Professeur having a pet American who lives in a little cottage in the corner of the garden and comes out to cook entertainingly rustic American dishes, can converse at length in charmingly mutilated French about jazz and literature and Barack Obama (three things the French like very much to talk about), and knows all the words to "Hotel California"* (things got a bit silly as the evening wore on).

But I've learned this: Want to impress French people with your cooking? Forget about cooking something French--they've had it all, and they've had it better. Instead, break out the chicken-n-dumplins, sausage biscuits, and shrimp & grits, and finish it all off with some marshmallow s'mores. Skip the sweet tea; it just doesn't translate.

*The curse of growing up under the cultural hegemony of Classic Rawk Radio. Wanna hear me do "Carry On My Wayward Son"? Maybe some Doobies or Grand Funk?


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